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Vladimir Putin just revealed 6 brand new Russian weapons – and they are impressive

The weapons are formidable and cutting edge, but affordable

Alexander Mercouris

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By far the greater part of President Putin’s State of the Nation address on 1st March 2018 was devoted to economic issues.  However inevitably it was the part of his address which touched on new weapons systems which attracted the most attention.

Here they are

(1) Sarmat heavy ICBM

This is the best known of the new strategic nuclear weapons systems that President Putin touched on in his State of the Nation address.  In fact we have discussed it previously.

Here is what President Putin had to say about it

Sarmat will replace the Voevoda system made in the USSR. Its immense power was universally recognized. Our foreign colleagues even gave it a fairly threatening name.

That said, the capabilities of the Sarmat missile are much higher. Weighing over 200 tonnes, it has a short boost phase, which makes it more difficult to intercept for missile defence systems. The range of the new heavy missile, the number and power of its combat blocs is bigger than Voevoda’s. Sarmat will be equipped with a broad range of powerful nuclear warheads, including hypersonic, and the most modern means of evading missile defence. The high degree of protection of missile launchers and significant energy capabilities the system offers will make it possible to use it in any conditions…..

Voevoda’s range is 11,000 km while Sarmat has practically no range restrictions.

As the video clips show, it can attack targets both via the North and South poles.

Sarmat is a formidable missile and, owing to its characteristics, is untroubled by even the most advanced missile defence systems.

Sarmat’s range has previously been disclosed to be 17,000 km.  Putin says it weighs 200 tonnes – roughly the same as its predecessor Voevoda – and double what had been reported previously.

One aspect of the Sarmat which Putin did not touch on is that it may have revived a 1960s Soviet concept referred to in the US as ‘FOBS’ (‘Fractional Orbital Bombardment System’).

The idea behind FOBS was that an ICBM would place its nuclear warheads in low earth orbit from where, after orbiting for a short time, they would fall upon their targets on earth.

Such a system would have no range limit, whilst the orbital flight path of the warheads would not reveal the target location.

It would allow a path to North America over the South Pole, hitting targets from the south, which is the opposite direction to the one from which US early warning systems are oriented.

Putin’s references to the Sarmat having “practically no range restrictions” and being able to “attack targets via the North and South Poles” suggests strongly that it uses a FOBS system.

If so then there is a huge irony to this.

The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 was supposed to ban nuclear weapons being placed in earth orbit.  However the US government – presumably because at that time it had a FOBS programme of its own – decided that FOBS did not violate the Outer Space Treaty because a FOBS warhead was technically not in orbit as it did not make a complete cycle of the earth.

FOBS was then supposed to be banned by the SALT II Treaty agreed by US President Carter and Soviet President Brezhnev in 1979.  However the SALT II Treaty was never ratified by the US Senate, and never came into legal force.

The US therefore had two opportunities to ban FOBS in 1967 and 1979, and passed up both.

The result is that with the coming of Sarmat it now quite possibly faces the prospect of having such a system deployed against it, which had it been less intransigent in pursuing its weapons programmes it might have prevented.

Needless to say, a nuclear warhead falling upon the US from space and coming towards the US from any direction is effectively impervious to interception by any of the missile defence systems the US has created or is planning.

The two next systems which President Putin discussed appear to use shared nuclear reactor technologies.  They are a nuclear powered cruise missile and a nuclear powered underwater drone.

(2) Nuclear powered cruise missile

Here is what President Putin had to say about this system

Russia’s advanced arms are based on the cutting-edge, unique achievements of our scientists, designers and engineers. One of them is a small-scale heavy-duty nuclear energy unit that can be installed in a missile like our latest X-101 air-launched missile or the American Tomahawk missile – a similar type but with a range dozens of times longer, dozens, basically an unlimited range. It is a low-flying stealth missile carrying a nuclear warhead, with almost an unlimited range, unpredictable trajectory and ability to bypass interception boundaries. It is invincible against all existing and prospective missile defence and counter-air defence systems. I will repeat this several times today.

In late 2017, Russia successfully launched its latest nuclear-powered missile at the Central training ground. During its flight, the nuclear-powered engine reached its design capacity and provided the necessary propulsion.

Now that the missile launch and ground tests were successful, we can begin developing a completely new type of weapon, a strategic nuclear weapons system with a nuclear-powered missile……

You can see how the missile bypasses interceptors. As the range is unlimited, the missile can manoeuvre for as long as necessary.

The key breakthrough is in miniaturising a nuclear reactor so that it can be fitted inside the engine of a cruise missile with dimensions similar to those of the US Tomahawk and the Russian Kh-101 cruise missiles.

This is a revolutionary breakthrough which – as President Putin says – gives Russia’s subsonic cruise missiles effectively unlimited range.

This incidentally negates any advantage the US might obtain by siting land based cruise missiles in Europe as it did in the 1980s.

In the 1980s the USSR had no effective counter since whilst US land based cruise missiles based in western Europe could reach the territory of the western USSR, Soviet land based cruise missiles based on Soviet territory or in eastern Europe could not reach the territory of the continental United States.

With the imminent deployment of a Russian nuclear powered cruise missile with unlimited range – and therefore capable of reaching the continental United States from Russian territory – that advantage has now gone.

As President Putin says a subsonic nuclear powered cruise missile is moreover essentially invulnerable to the anti ballistic missile system the US is currently deploying.

However though small and stealthy cruise missiles are difficult targets, they are not immune to interception.

The effectiveness of these missiles may therefore depend on how many of these missiles Russia can build?

If it can build large numbers of them then it is possible that US defences might become overwhelmed.  However that depends on the cost of the nuclear motor.

(3) Nuclear powered underwater drone

The existence of this drone has been known about for some time, ever since November 2015 in fact when the existence of this drone (referred to as “Status-6”) was briefly – and perhaps intentionally – disclosed by Russian television.

Here is what Putin had to say about it

Now, we all know that the design and development of unmanned weapon systems is another common trend in the world. As concerns Russia, we have developed unmanned submersible vehicles that can move at great depths (I would say extreme depths) intercontinentally, at a speed multiple times higher than the speed of submarines, cutting-edge torpedoes and all kinds of surface vessels, including some of the fastest. It is really fantastic. They are quiet, highly manoeuvrable and have hardly any vulnerabilities for the enemy to exploit. There is simply nothing in the world capable of withstanding them.

Unmanned underwater vehicles can carry either conventional or nuclear warheads, which enables them to engage various targets, including aircraft groups, coastal fortifications and infrastructure.

In December 2017, an innovative nuclear power unit for this unmanned underwater vehicle completed a test cycle that lasted many years. The nuclear power unit is unique for its small size while offering an amazing power-weight ratio. It is a hundred times smaller than the units that power modern submarines, but is still more powerful and can switch into combat mode, that is to say, reach maximum capacity, 200 times faster.

The tests that were conducted enabled us to begin developing a new type of strategic weapon that would carry massive nuclear ordnance.

The purpose of the drone when launched against the continental United States would appear to be to create a tsunami wave 500 metres tall, which apart from causing massive loss of life would radioactively contaminate a large area of the US coast.

It is assumed that in its nuclear tipped form the drone carries a large thermonuclear cobalt warhead of up to 100 megatons – twice the power of the so-called ‘Tsar Bomb” detonated by the USSR in 1961 – which would be by a very great distance the most powerful nuclear warhead ever built.

Here is how Wikipedia describes the drone

It appears to be a torpedo-shaped robotic mini-submarine which can travel at speeds of 185 km/h (100 kn).[7][10][13] More recent information suggests a top speed of 100 km/h (54 kn), with a range of 10,000 km (5,400 nmi; 6,200 mi) and a depth maximum of 1,000 m (3,300 ft).[14] This underwater drone is cloaked by stealth technology to elude acoustic tracking devices.[10] Its size appears to be 1.6 metres in diameter, and 24 metres long.[8] The warhead shown in the leaked figure is a cylinder 1.5 meters in diameter by 4 meters in length, giving a volume of 7 cubic meters. Comparing this to the volumes of other large thermonuclear bombs — the 1961 Soviet-era Tsar Bomba itself measured eight meters long by 2.1 meters in diameter — indicates that the yield is at least several tens of megatons, generally consistent with early reports.

As Wikipedia rightly says, the indiscriminate nature of this weapon system when used in its nuclear tipped form means that it is intended to be a weapon of last resort intended to inflict maximum damage upon an enemy in case Russia’s land based missile arsenal is disabled by a first strike.

Two further points can be made about this drone.

The first is that its nuclear reactor almost certainly shares technologies with that used in the engine of the nuclear powered cruise missile discussed above.

The second is that President Putin’s words show that it also comes in a form with a conventional warhead, and that in this version it is intended to be used as an anti-carrier weapon.

 (4) Aircraft launched Kinzhal hypersonic missile

It has been know for some time that Russia is developing long range hypersonic missiles, and President Putin provided details of one of them

Countries with high research potential and advanced technology are known to be actively developing so-called hypersonic weapons. The speed of sound is usually measured in Mach numbers in honour of Austrian scientist Ernst Mach who is known for his research in this field. One Mach is equal to 1,062 kilometres per hour at an altitude of 11 kilometres. The speed of sound is Mach 1, speeds between Mach 1 and Mach 5 is called supersonic, and hypersonic is above Mach 5. Of course, this kind of weapon provides substantial advantages in an armed conflict. Military experts believe that it would be extremely powerful, and that its speed makes it invulnerable to current missile and air defence systems, since interceptor missiles are, simply put, not fast enough. In this regard, it is quite understandable why the leading armies of the world seek to possess such an ideal weapon.

Friends, Russia already has such a weapon.

The most important stage in the development of modern weapons systems was the creation of a high-precision hypersonic aircraft missile system; as you already know for sure, it is the only one of its kind in the world. Its tests have been successfully completed, and, moreover, on December 1 of last year, these systems began their trial service at the airfields of the Southern Military District.

The unique flight characteristics of the high-speed carrier aircraft allow the missile to be delivered to the point of discharge within minutes. The missile flying at a hypersonic speed, 10 times faster than the speed of sound, can also manoeuvre at all phases of its flight trajectory, which also allows it to overcome all existing and, I think, prospective anti-aircraft and anti-missile defence systems, delivering nuclear and conventional warheads in a range of over 2,000 kilometres. We called this system Kinzhal (Dagger).

President Putin’s description makes it clear that this is an aircraft launched hypersonic standoff (ie. long range) missile, with the carrier aircraft being presumably Russia’s current TU-160 and TU-95 strategic bombers and Russia’s prospective PAK-DA stealth bomber.

President Putin says that development of this missile is complete and that it is already on flight test with aircraft of the Southern Military District, presumably at Engels airforce base in southern Russia.

President Putin gave a range for the Kinzhal – which may share technologies with the pending Zircon hypersonic anti ship missile – of 2,000 kilometres, and gave it a speed of Mach 10.

If the Kinzhal is indeed about to enter service as President Putin says – and there is no reason to disbelieve him – then it will be the first strategic hypersonic standoff missile to enter service with any military.

(5) Avangard hypersonic projectile

This is a completely different and much more advanced hypersonic weapons system than Kinzhal.

Here is what President Putin had to say about it

A real technological breakthrough is the development of a strategic missile system with fundamentally new combat equipment – a gliding wing unit, which has also been successfully tested……

……I am pleased to inform you that successfully completed experiments during these exercises enable us to confirm that in the near future, the Russian Armed Forces, the Strategic Missile Forces, will receive new hypersonic-speed, high-precision new weapons systems that can hit targets at inter-continental distance and can adjust their altitude and course as they travel. This is a very significant statement because no country in the world as of now has such arms in their military arsenal…..

Unlike existing types of combat equipment, this system is capable of intercontinental flight at supersonic speeds in excess of Mach 20.

As I said in 2004, in moving to its target, the missile’s gliding cruise bloc engages in intensive manoeuvring – both lateral (by several thousand km) and vertical. This is what makes it absolutely invulnerable to any air or missile defence system. The use of new composite materials has made it possible to enable the gliding cruise bloc to make a long-distance guided flight practically in conditions of plasma formation. It flies to its target like a meteorite, like a ball of fire. The temperature on its surface reaches 1,600–2,000 degrees Celsius but the cruise bloc is reliably guided.

For obvious reasons we cannot show the outer appearance of this system here. This is still very important. I hope everyone understands this. But let me assure you that we have all this and it is working well. Moreover, Russian industrial enterprises have embarked on the development of another new type of strategic weapon. We called it the Avangard.

We are well aware that a number of other countries are developing advanced weapons with new physical properties. We have every reason to believe that we are one step ahead there as well – at any rate, in the most essential areas.

Unlike Kinzhal this system is clearly still in development.

President Putin’s description of it makes it clear that unlike Kinzhal this is a projectile not a missile ie. it glides to its target at hypersonic speed (Mach 20) and is not powered by an onboard motor.  Though President Putin did not release any picture of what it would look like, the video which accompanied his comments shows that it somewhat resembles the hypersonic warhead shown in this picture, which may be of a similar Chinese system.

Probably the launch system for Avangard is the new heavy Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile, with Avangard possibly being launched from near earth orbit.

In other words Avangard appears to be an advanced hypersonic warhead for the Sarmat, though it should be said that President Putin’s words were – intentionally – somewhat vague about it.

Avangard’s advantage over FOBS is that it is a manoeuvring warhead with a longer and more flexible range than a FOBS warhead.  Conceivably it could also be used with a conventional warhead for example to attack carrier groups.

That the Russians have been working on a hypersonic glide warhead vehicle has been known about for some time, and it is known that work on such systems is also underway in the US and China.

President Putin’s comments suggest that the Russians believe their system is further advanced in development than the parallel systems being developed in the US and China.

(6) Laser weapons 

President Putin spoke of ‘laser weapons’ being already in service with the Russian military.  However when referring to these weapons he gave almost nothing away

We have achieved significant progress in laser weapons. It is not just a concept or a plan any more. It is not even in the early production stages. Since last year, our troops have been armed with laser weapons.

I do not want to reveal more details. It is not the time yet. But experts will understand that with such weaponry, Russia’s defence capacity has multiplied.

Those interested in military equipment are welcome to suggest a name for this new weaponry, this cutting-edge system.

Of course, we will be refining this state-of-the-art technology.

These words do not make it clear whether these laser weapons are strategic or tactical weapons.  Nor did the accompanying video, which showed a laser weapon being deployed from a trailer, make clear their purpose.  Possibly they are some sort of anti aircraft or anti satellite system.

President Putin’s presentation has provoked a mixture of incredulity and ridicule in the US, with claims that the weapons systems he unveiled do not exist or that Russia cannot afford them, and that his presentation was a bluff.

This is despite President Putin’s warning that his presentation is not a bluff

Now we have to be aware of this reality and be sure that everything I have said today is not a bluff ‒ and it is not a bluff, believe me ‒ and to give it a thought and dismiss those who live in the past and are unable to look into the future, to stop rocking the boat we are all in and which is called the Earth.

In fact apart from the laser weapons and the nuclear powered cruise missile all of the weapons systems President Putin spoke about in his State of the Nation address have previously been discussed in open literature.

Thus the fact that the Russians were developing a hypersonic warhead glide vehicle, a nuclear powered underwater drone, a hypersonic standoff cruise missile, and the new Sarmat heavy ICBM, were things that were already previously known and talked about.

The Pentagon has even confirmed Russian tests of some of these systems: for example the underwater drone is known to have been tested in 2016 in the Arctic seas.

These systems do involve important technological breakthroughs, but the one area where the Russians appear to be farthest ahead of the West – and where President Putin’s presentation today will cause the Pentagon the greatest concern – is in Russia’s success in miniaturising nuclear reactors to the point where they can be used to power Tomahawk sized cruise missiles.

Rosatom – Russia’s giant state owned corporation which directs Russia’s nuclear industry – is known to be at the forefront of nuclear reactor technology, and the Russians have a long history of developing and building small nuclear reactors, as for example in their ocean reconnaissance satellites of the 1980s and – reputedly – in their current Sarov submarine, so skepticism about President Putin’s claim that they have developed a nuclear reactor small enough to fit into the engine of a Tomahawk sized cruise missile is unwarranted.

A nuclear reactor small enough to fit inside the engine of Tomahawk sized cruise missile could in theory also be used in engines to power civil and military manned aircraft, giving them effectively unlimited range.

The Soviets did in fact experiment with a nuclear powered bomber (the TU-95LAL) in the early 1960s.

However concerns about the effectiveness of reactor shielding for the crew and about the environmental effect of an accident put paid to the idea of nuclear powered aircraft in the 1960s, and despite the huge technological advances since then the same concerns would almost certainly defeat any project for a nuclear powered manned aircraft today.

As to the affordability of these weapons, the reality is that apart from the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle warhead – which has its analogues in the US and China, and which Russia was previously known to be developing – none of the weapons systems discussed by President Putin in his State of the Nation address look especially expensive.

Probably the most costly of these systems apart from Avangard is the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile, which uses technologies with which the Russians are highly experienced.

In summary, these are real weapons or – in the case of the still being developed Avangard – real programmes, and there is no reason to doubt that they will all shortly be deployed with the Russian armed forces, just as President Putin says.

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Major Syrian Army Assault On Southeast Idlib As Sochi Deal Unravels

Though the Syrian war has grown cold in terms of international spotlight and media interest since September, it is likely again going to ramp up dramatically over the next few months. 

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Via Zerohedge


The Syrian Army unleashed a major assault across the southeastern part of Idlib province on Saturday, a military source told Middle East news site Al-Masdar in a breaking report. According to the source, government forces pounded jihadist defenses across the southeast Idlib axis with a plethora of artillery shells and surface-to-surface missiles.

This latest exchange between the Syrian military and jihadist rebels comes as the Sochi Agreement falls apart in northwestern Syria, and in response to a Friday attack by jihadists which killed 22 Syrian soldiers near a planned buffer zone around the country’s last major anti-Assad and al-Qaeda held region. The jihadist strikes resulted in the highest number of casualties for the army since the Sochi Agreement was established on September 17th.

Though the Syrian war has grown cold in terms of international spotlight and media interest since September, it is likely again going to ramp up dramatically over the next few months.

The Al-Masdar source said the primary targets for the Syrian Army were the trenches and military posts for Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham in the towns of Al-Taman’ah, Khuwayn, Babulin, Haish, Jarjanaz, Um Jalal, and Mashirfah Shmaliyah. In retaliation for the Syrian Army assault, the jihadist rebels began shelling the government towns of Ma’an, Um Hariteen, and ‘Atshan.

Damascus has been critical of the Sochi deal from the start as it’s criticized Turkey’s role in the Russian-brokered ceasefire plan, especially as a proposed ‘de-militarized’ zone has failed due to jihadist insurgents still holding around 70% of the planned buffer area which they were supposed to withdraw from by mid-October. Sporadic clashes have rocked the “buffer zone” since.

Russia itself recently acknowledged the on the ground failure of the Sochi agreement even as parties officially cling to it. During a Thursday press briefing by Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova admitted the following:

We have to state that the real disengagement in Idlib has not been achieved despite Turkey’s continuing efforts to live up to its commitments under the Russian-Turkish Memorandum of September 17.

This followed Russia also recently condemning  “sporadic clashes” and “provocations” by the jihadist group HTS (the main al-Qaeda presence) in Idlib.

Likely due to Moscow seeing the writing on the wall that all-out fighting and a full assault by government forces on Idlib will soon resume, Russian naval forces continued a show of force in the Mediterranean this week.

Russian military and naval officials announced Friday that its warships held extensive anti-submarine warfare drills in the Mediterranean. Specifically the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s frigates Admiral Makarov and Admiral Essen conducted the exercise in tandem with deck-based helicopters near Syrian coastal waters.

Notably, according to TASS, the warships central to the drill are “armed with eight launchers of Kalibr-NK cruise missiles that are capable of striking surface, coastal and underwater targets at a distance of up to 2,600 km.”

Since September when what was gearing up to be a major Syrian-Russian assault on Idlib was called off through the Russian-Turkish ceasefire agreement, possibly in avoidance of the stated threat that American forces would intervene in defense of the al-Qaeda insurgent held province (also claiming to have intelligence of an impending government “chemical attack”), the war has largely taken a back-burner in the media and public consciousness.

But as sporadic fighting between jihadists and Syrian government forces is reignited and fast turning into major offensive operations by government forces, the war could once again be thrust back into the media spotlight as ground zero for a great power confrontation between Moscow and Washington.

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Trump Quietly Orders Elimination of Assange

The destruction of Assange has clearly been arranged for, at the highest levels of the U.S. Government, just as the destruction of Jamal Khashoggi was by Saudi Arabia’s Government.

Eric Zuesse

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On June 28th, the Washington Examiner headlined “Pence pressed Ecuadorian president on country’s protection of Julian Assange” and reported that “Vice President Mike Pence discussed the asylum status of Julian Assange during a meeting with Ecuador’s leader on Thursday, following pressure from Senate Democrats who have voiced concerns over the country’s protection of the WikiLeaks founder.” Pence had been given this assignment by U.S. President Donald Trump. The following day, the Examiner bannered “Mike Pence raises Julian Assange case with Ecuadorean president, White House confirms” and reported that the White House had told the newspaper, “They agreed to remain in close coordination on potential next steps going forward.”

On August 24th, a court-filing by Kellen S. Dwyer, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Alexandria Division of the Eastern District of Virginia, stated: “Due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure [than sealing the case, hiding it from the public] is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged. … This motion and the proposed order would need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter.” That filing was discovered by Seamus Hughes, a terrorism expert at the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. On November 15th, he posted an excerpt of it on Twitter, just hours after the Wall Street Journal had reported on the same day that the Justice Department was preparing to prosecute Assange. However, now that we know “the fact that Assange has been charged” and that the U.S. Government is simply waiting “until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter,” it is clear and public that the arrangements which were secretly made between Trump’s agent Pence and the current President of Ecuador are expected to deliver Assange into U.S. custody for criminal prosecution, if Assange doesn’t die at the Ecuadorean Embassy first.

On November 3rd (which, of course, preceded the disclosures on November 15th), Julian Assange’s mother, Christine Ann Hawkins, described in detail what has happened to her son since the time of Pence’s meeting with Ecuador’s President. She said:

He is, right now, alone, sick, in pain, silenced in solitary confinement, cut off from all contact, and being tortured in the heart of London. … He has been detained nearly eight years, without trial, without charge. For the past six years, the UK Government has refused his requests to exit for basic health needs, … [even for] vitamin D. … As a result, his health has seriously deteriorated. … A slow and cruel assassination is taking place before our very eyes. … They will stop at nothing. … When U.S. Vice President Mike Pence recently visited Ecuador, a deal was done to hand Julian over to the U.S. He said that because the political cost of expelling Julian from the Embassy was too high, the plan was to break him down mentally…   to such a point that he will break and be forced to leave. … The extradition warrant is held in secret, four prosecutors but no defense, and no judge, … without a prima-facie case. [Under the U.S. system, the result nonetheless can be] indefinite detention without trial. Julian could be held in Guantanamo Bay and tortured, sentenced to 45 years in a maximum security prison, or face the death penalty,” for “espionage,” in such secret proceedings.

Her phrase, “because the political cost of expelling Julian from the Embassy was too high” refers to the worry that this new President of Ecuador has, of his cooperating with the U.S. regime’s demands and thereby basically ceding sovereignty to those foreigners (the rulers of the U.S.), regarding the Ecuadorian citizen, Assange.

This conservative new President of Ecuador, who has replaced the progressive President who had granted Assange protection, is obviously doing all that he can to comply with U.S. President Trump and the U.S. Congress’s demand for Assange either to die soon inside the Embassy or else be transferred to the U.S. and basically just disappear, at Guantanamo or elsewhere. Ecuador’s President wants to do this in such a way that Ecuador’s voters won’t blame him for it, and that he’ll thus be able to be re-elected. This is the type of deal he apparently has reached with Trump’s agent, Pence. It’s all secret, but the evidence on this much of what was secretly agreed-to seems clear. There are likely other details of the agreement that cannot, as yet, be conclusively inferred from the subsequent events, but this much can.

Basically, Trump has arranged for Assange to be eliminated either by illness that’s imposed by his Ecuadorean agent, or else by Assange’s own suicide resulting from that “torture,” or else by America’s own criminal-justice system. If this elimination happens inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, then that would be optimal for America’s President and Congress; but, if it instead happens on U.S. soil, then that would be optimal for Ecuador’s President. Apparently, America’s President thinks that his subjects, the American people, will become sufficiently hostile toward Assange so that even if Assange disappears or is executed inside the United States, this President will be able to retain his supporters. Trump, of course, needs his supporters, but this is a gamble that he has now clearly taken. This much is clear, even though the rest of the secret agreement that was reached between Pence and Ecuador’s President is not.

Scooter Libby, who had arranged for the smearing of Valerie Plame who had tried to prevent the illegal and deceit-based 2003 invasion of Iraq, was sentenced to 30 months but never spent even a day in prison, and U.S. President Trump finally went so far as to grant him a complete pardon, on 13 April 2018. (The carefully researched docudrama “Fair Game” covered well the Plame-incident.) Libby had overseen the career-destruction of a courageous CIA agent, Plame, who had done the right thing and gotten fired for it; and Trump pardoned Libby, thus retroactively endorsing the lie-based invasion of Iraq in 2003. By contrast, Trump is determined to get Julian Assange killed or otherwise eliminated, and even Democrats in Congress are pushing for him to get that done. The new President of Ecuador is doing their bidding. Without pressure from the U.S. Government, Assange would already be a free man. Thus, either Assange will die (be murdered) soon inside the Embassy, or else he will disappear and be smeared in the press under U.S. control. And, of course, this is being done in such a way that no one will be prosecuted for the murder or false-imprisonment. Trump had promised to “clean the swamp,” but as soon as he was elected, he abandoned that pretense; and, as President, he has been bipartisan on that matter, to hide the crimes of the bipartisan U.S. Government, and he is remarkably similar in policy to his immediate predecessors, whom he had severely criticized while he was running for the Presidency.

In any event, the destruction of Assange has clearly been arranged for, at the highest levels of the U.S. Government, just as the destruction of Jamal Khashoggi was by Saudi Arabia’s Government; and, just like in Khashoggi’s case, the nation’s ruler controls the prosecutors and can therefore do whatever he chooses to do that the rest of the nation’s aristocracy consider to be acceptable.

The assault against truth isn’t only against Assange, but it is instead also closing down many of the best, most courageous, independent news sites, such as washingtonsblog. However, in Assange’s case, the penalty for having a firm commitment to truth has been especially excruciating and will almost certainly end in his premature death. This is simply the reality. Because of the system under which we live, a 100% commitment to truth is now a clear pathway to oblivion. Assange is experiencing this reality to the fullest. That’s what’s happening here.

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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Libya’s Peace Process Dies in Palermo

The best the Palermo negotiators could come up with at the end was a bland statement declaring their hope that sometime in the future all the Libyan forces will meet to sort out their differences.

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Authored by Richard Galustian for the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity:


“Resounding flop” was the verdict of Italy’s former prime minister Matteo Renzi on this week’s Libya peace conference held in Palermo. He’s not wrong. The conference hosted by Italy’s new government achieved the remarkable feat of making Libya’s tensions worse, not better. Acrimony broke out between the parties, and Turkey’s delegation walked out, its vice president Fuat Oktay accusing unnamed States of trying to “hijack the process.”

Some sources in Palermo suggested, yet to be verified, that the US thought the Conference was not too bad: a joke if true.

Moreover the mystery we might ask is what “process” is there to hijack? Because the truth is, the peace plan the conference was supporting is already dead.

That plan was the brainchild of the United Nations, launched more than a year ago with the aim of ending Libya’s split between warring Eastern and Western governments with elections in December.

Even before the first delegates set foot in the pleasant Sicilian city of Palermo this week, the UN admitted the election date of December 10 they had decided to scrap.

The eastern government, led by the parliament in Tobruk, had made moves in the summer to organize a referendum on a new constitution which would govern the elections. But no referendum was held, and most Libyans agree it would be pointless because Tripoli, home to a third of the country’s population, is under the iron grip of multiple warring militias who have the firepower to defy any new elected government. Hours after the delegates left Palermo, those militias began a new bout of fighting in the Tripoli suburbs.

The best the Palermo negotiators could come up with at the end of the talks was a bland statement declaring their hope that sometime in the future all the Libyan forces will meet in a grand conference to sort out their differences – and this after four years of civil war. To say that chances of this are slim is an understatement.

Dominating the Palermo talks, and indeed Libya’s political landscape, was and is Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the Libyan National Army, the country’s most powerful formation. In four years, the LNA has secured Libya’s key oil fields and Benghazi, its second city, ridding most of the east Libya of Islamist militias.

Haftar met reluctantly negotiators in Palermo, but insisted he was not part of the talks process. The Italian government press office said Haftar was not having dinner with the other participants nor joining them for talks. Haftar specifically opposed the presence of the Muslim Brotherhood champion, Qatar, at the event along with Turkey.

Haftar clearly only attended because he had a few days before visiting Moscow – which sent to Sicily Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev – and because also of Egyptian President Sisi’s presence along with his allies.

Possibly Haftar was simply fed up. Twice in the past two years he has attended previous peace talks, hosted each time in Paris, giving the nod to declarations that Libya’s militias would dissolve. Yet the militias remain as strong as ever in Tripoli.

Haftar is detested by the militias and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) but supported by a large segment of the population – 68 percent, according to an opinion poll by America’s USAID. His popularity is based on a single policy – his demand that security be in the hands of regular police and military, not the militias.

Not everyone is happy, certainly not Turkey, which is backing Islamist, MB and Misratan forces in western Libya who detest Haftar. Yet Turkey’s greatest statesman, the great Kamal Ataturk, was a champion of secularism: After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire following World War One Turkey faced the prospect of utter disintegration, and it was Attaturk who rose to the challenge, defending the country’s borders, while ordering that the mullahs, while responsible for spiritual welfare, have no political power.

Political Islam is not popular in Libya either. Libya is a Muslim country, its people know their faith, and most want government to be decided through the ballot box.

The problem for Libya is what happens next with the peace process broken. Haftar has in the past threatened to move on Tripoli and rid the militias by force if they refuse to dissolve, and it may come to that – a fierce escalation of the civil war.

The second possibility is that Libya will split. The east is, thanks to the LNA, militarily secure. It also controls two thirds of the country’s oil and operates as a separate entity, down to it banknotes, which are printed in Russia while the Tripoli government’s are printed in Britain. A formal split would be an economic boon for the lightly populated east, but a disaster for Tripolitania, its population losing most of the oil, its only source of export income.

Yet with the failure of peace talks, and no sign of Tripoli militias dissolving, military escalation or breakup seem more likely than ever.

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